I have a confession to make……I do not have a professional networking strategy at all. To be honest, I had not given it a lot of thought until this class. Of course I have work connections, school connections and a half completed LinkedIn profile but I never gave them a lot of thought. After this class, I have a hard time believing I did not see the value to all of this before now. In reality, I think I saw the value; it just did not occur to me that it should be a strategy versus casual. I have been lucky to have mentor/coaching relationships in my professional life but it was never formal or strategic. However, I think this kind of long range planning and thinking can have a lot of value in expanding the possibilities of networking. Therefore, my first commitment is to develop a professional networking strategy.
My first priority is to finish and update my LinkedIn profile. It could definitely use some attention and could be more fully developed. I think this is a good place to start because in the digital world we live in people are looking for me online and I want to be in control of what they are finding. I had not considered that so many people would look me up before or after meeting me and the weight it would have in their opinion of me. Therefore, one of my plans for the future is to expand my profile to reflect all my past/current experience. I also want to ensure I reach out to all my possible connections.
My second priority is to foster my current relationships. I want to ensure the people who have been there for me over the years know the value they have added and the appreciation I have for them. In the idea of improving/building relationships I would also like to see who I can add to my inner circle. I would like to seek out new mentors and coaches that are doing some of the things I would like to work towards doing in the future. While online networking is a huge area of focus right now, I don’t want to lose sight of the importance of face to face contact.
My third priority is to look for opportunities online or in person to practice networking and to build my professional network. These events could be social, educational or business events. The main goal is to become more comfortable especially at in person events. I have found these scenarios intimidating in the past but I have started to do some research to overcome those feelings. This includes ideas on how to make conversation, researching the speakers ahead of time, ways to add value, building an elevator speech and the importance of post meeting notes.
My fourth priority is to look for people I can mentor or coach. I have been very lucky over the years to have people take me under their wing and teach me important lessons that I use to this day. I think it is important to remember in networking that it is as much about what we are putting out as it is about what we are getting in return. I try to help others succeed the way I have been helped. I would like to formalize this in order to make it consistent instead of the sporadic way I use now.
I am very lucky to be working in an industry that I enjoy with a company that I love. I always thought of networking as being less planned and often used to change jobs. I am excited to use it to build connections and to be able to offer my support to others. I now see how it is important to stay current and connected. I look forward to putting my strategy in place and seeing where it takes me!